The rereleased Blu-Ray of The Boys boasts that it’s “restored and remastered.” Yet, the film looks hardly pristine, boasting a scrappy, scuzzy aesthetic that recalls the VHS era moreso than today’s slick HD media. That’s not a complaint. The rough-edged look is perfectly suited for Rowan Woods’ debut, a disturbingly putrid portrait of Australian masculinity at its worst.
The titular boys are three brothers prone to criminality: Glenn (John Poison), Stevie (Anthony Hayes) and Brett (David Wenham); the latter is released from prison as the film begins. Immediately, Brett sets about sowing seeds of chaos, challenging his brothers, his mother (Lynette Curran) and girlfriend (Toni Collette) in order to assert the primacy of his own authority. ‘The boys’ are emblematic of masculinity turned utterly noxious, twisted in misogyny and entitlement.
Formally, the film’s overt ugliness aids its stomach-turning message; every frame resonates with the threat of imminent violence. Structurally, it’s less convincing. Adapted from Gordon Graham’s stage-play, The Boys builds to an act of violence that heavily foreshadowed – not just tonally, but narratively. We regularly cut to flash forwards months in the future; a gambit that I found confusing while achieving little that isn’t hinted at by the oppressive atmosphere.